The study of Cultural Anthropology intended to show the student how societies form stable and productive groups. Each society deals with the known quality of 'Human Nature' as known to its' own satisfaction. When ambition, greed, and uncontrolled economic activity become major influences, people who were more able to keep the relative peace, are no longer able to do so. Each tribal society contacted and altered by civilization, has experienced a loss of social harmony and co-operation. If America stands as the pinnacle example of how to be as a society, we are all in serious trouble.
Cultural Anthropology is a subject that begs the question: why is America so screwed up socially, while native Indians (Yanomamo); desert nomadic Hunter/Gatherers (the !Kung); and forest pygmies (the Mbuti) all seem to have had more functional social orders, before western ways got to them. For example, violence in all of these cultures is more about the expected things. Fights over women, honor, right to the kill from a hunt. Political alliance for the mutual protection. When a social situation turns serious, there are organized ways to settle the difference. But afterward, they can still live and work together. (In most cases. They at least tend to hold reconciliation as a desirable goal. My pet peeve against America is that we have a definite social directive to 'cut the cord'; 'burn the bridge'. This societies' social jargon is ripe with expressions of rejection and alienation. How many words did the Eskimos have for snow? The number of words for a thing tell you what that society values for real.)
In class, I heard students declare that because some of these peoples don't have the means to be hygienic, or legalistic, this makes them 'sub-human'. But I quote 'Shaki' Chagnon when I say that the Yano's considered him sub-human for his lack of social participation with their community when he first arrived. I also note that even though he was regarded this way, the Yano's did not kill him or shut him out from their social world because of his 'social disability'. He was considered to be from the lower world of their mythology, and would eventually rise to join them in the 'true earth' (my term).
In Yano society prior to the use of material greed to coerce them to labor and social division, regard for others was so profound to their culture, that if someone were so mean or careless as to speak the name of someone else's recently dead relative, it could be a cause for murder, and in all likelihood, the offended person would be viewed as being 'in the right' by their community. In a shabono, or a desert or forest camp, you can't avoid the tears of an offended neighbor. If you don't have compassion, you don't have a peaceful, happy camp. If you exclude some one with out a just cause, you sacrifice peace.
In class, people have repeatedly tried to say that these societies have better social co-operation and consideration because they 'have to'. The attempt is to justify the American negative attitude toward most matters social and personal by saying that somehow something beyond our control has made it impossible to live this way, therefor I, me, the individual, has no obligation to try and live by a less vicious standard of conduct. I am not talking about how a government agency behaves. Or how votes go or how scarce resources are divided up. It's as if you think if you stand up in public, pointing a finger at some one you dislike or hate, that somehow you are then safer from that person. In actuality, this is an act of provocation. What's supposed to be accomplished by angering someone, or embarrassing them? And yet Americans will counsel others not to anger people, but the advice falls silent when offered back as a way to stop the violence. You don't need to attack people's home, take their cars and other property to enforce the law and have peace. It's just another American insult to justice to say that the job of law and order must be done with this level of hostility.
Other countries have all the same problems that America does. They don't have rampaging violence. If those countries can do it, what's wrong with Americans that they can't have a peaceful society? (Recognize this argument? It is common response from Americans when I attempt to criticize society. "All these other people are doing O.K. in the system. If you're not doing well, the problem is you. Well, if America can't live in peace with all different kinds of people, like so many others do, then there must be something wrong with America. Most European countries have mixed populations.)
As children most of us are told certain falsehoods. Honesty the best policy, and the like. How many can you think of? Today, as adults we are expected to know that these things are false. Somehow I just missed a lot of little secrets that I was supposed to be told in the dark of night .
Repeatedly, when I have criticized Americans for a lack of compassion and the way the defenseless are 'kicked when down', the usual reply is that if I don't like it their way, I should try China or Pakistan for a place to live. I find it interesting that Americans always try to compare themselves to the worst of the worlds' dictators in trying to defend their own lack of humanity.
This goes along with the Extreme Opposite Defense/Offense. If I make even the smallest gain on any point, the reaction will be for the American to take the extreme opposite case and try to say that I'm promoting that position. For example, if I 'won' that America is on the verge of nazism like Hitler, they would say, 'so you want it like communism'. Even though there is no evidence, or previous discussion of communism, (communism is assumed to be indefensible) it will be used to try and deflect the criticisms of America.
In contrast to this welcomed negativism, expressions of the better side of human emotion needs some sort of defense, or it falls flat like a bad joke. I'm not just kicking America. This is the real and the here.
Time and again, when I have found proof of American societies' deliberate, malevolent actions that are leading to violence, those who have been permitted to 'sell-out' to the establishment simply suspend logic and all arguments previously used against another ideology, and even their own logical defenses, and declare their own victory regardless.
The following facts are clear: 1) America is the most violent of western, modern nations.
2) America is more inhumane to people than even many nations we call third world. Many of those countries have whatever medical care can be had available to everyone.
3) Americans say be positive, but this nations' society is the most negative. People say they won't live in fear, but they do. People say they want peace, but allow injustice to go unchallenged.
4) The defining experience for the American social common ground seems to be getting ripped off, or hurt in a personal relationship. Ever after, the individual is expected to be colder and more cynical, or they're not 'adjusting' properly.
5) Americas' attitude toward people has become callused and bellicose. It is no longer a societal ideal to leave well enough alone. Persons of low wealth status are viewed as potential criminals and are treated accordingly before any offense is known. The attempt at prevention is a major source of motives for violence in America.
The Harmless PeopleIn the Kalahari desert, life can be hard. The waterhole is the center of both social life and subsistence. In class, the idea was presented that the !kung co-operate and are less violent because they need others of their kind to get by in the desert.
But this doesn't make sense. According to Western ways, if there is a scarce resource, you make the most deadly weapons you can, gather the the biggest gang, then go take what you want. Once in possession of the needed thing, you exact every drop of 'blood money' you can, or stand coldly by while others suffer and die. (In America, the suffering generated by normal economic trends and shifts has been co-opted by those who feel they have a right to dictate life to others. They use this natural cycling of the economy to make life worse for any one not measuring up to the religious standard of last weeks' sermon. I have seen employers , a Baptist minister at a construction company, who evaluated their workers by what sin they talked about in church that Sunday.
It has been suggested that in the desert there are not enough resources to gather weapons, food, and other supplies, with which to sustain a war. But I say that every environment contains the means for organized violence, proportionate to the population.
America won't preferably kill someone it does not like outright. In the same way that this nation 'marginally illegalizes' people without jailing them for a real crime, America wants to have people that are at complete disadvantage because if you complain about being cheated by the rich or are a victim of some crime, you, the non-legal person, (non-persons) cannot redress a grievance, even though the window dressing of a justice system is in place. This feeds into the need for the some to feel superior. One man can make a claim to a court, the other can't. And then there came a day when the people staffing our court system just decided they didn't want to try to do true justice, it didn't fit with the image of themselves as rulers.
But they were truly supposed to be servants, an idea that no American would embrace. The winners of the cold war cannot now stoop to care for those who have suffered in their victory.
The !Kung have all the weapons they need to go on a campaign of conquest over their neighbors. With the mongongo as a staple food, they could survive the destruction of their environment in war, because they would know there would be fewer people to support afterwards. But they don't think this way. Their culture found a use and value in peace. Why can't America?
If the theory that social co-operation and peace only exist as a necessity were true, the !kung would be at war. There is no need to co-operate. Poison arrows are effective hunting tools. If one group of !Kung wanted, why not kill the competition and make the hunting easier by less demand on existing game? Why continue a tradition of younger people collecting bags of mongongos for those too old, injured or otherwise infirm? This is a useless activity which only prolongs the drain of resources by someone who should be left to die. Those words, 'You should be left to die' were spoken to me by a western doctor. How can anyone defend such conduct? But this doctor will never be punished.
It has been suggested that the fact that the !kung tend not to have had wars in recent memory, is proof that humans don't possess the 'Killer Instinct' once thought to have been the defining characteristic of humans over apes. This only goes to prove further that America's problem with violence is of its' own making. Our violence is not our nature, as has been offered as an excuse for more police state tactics. Therefor, no one should offer sympathy or comfort to the families of crime victims unless that family can prove that they were willing to hire a young man without treating him like a criminal in advance. That they're basic belief is the average man is only trying to find his own niche or special skill that will make him a living.
No, Americans are 'positive' in word only. Until I was about 24, I was treated O.K. in general. When I hit about 25, and was not what someone expected, there was a whole other load of fear and suspicion that I was supposed to quell. But to quote America. its' your fear, deal with it yourself. But dare to solve your problems the easy way, excluding others on the basis of slight misapprehension, (variation in life script), and risk bringing the walls down on you.
I think American society is afflicted with what the Mbuti call 'akami'. I quote Turnbull , "It was plain that as far as the Mbuti were concerned, the quality of life was more important to them than the quantitative element of individual wealth, which was the lure held out to them by those who wished to change them for their own purposes." (pg. 20 "The Mbuti Pygmies)
The Mbuti are today far removed from their prewar society. Now, they have to be part of the economic system. The same is true of the Yanos now that they have allowed the mission to become permanent. Gold rushes and technology beyond their scope has made changes necessary. America is heavily into this type of control freak thing today. Everywhere people go, everything they do is coming under the constant watch, and resulting fear of what Orwell called 'Big Brother'. This is no longer just a fantasy story. I am beginning to recognize some of the types of behavior from that book in people today.
Women, needing to maintain an image of societal respectability or risk losing their children or be regarded as a 'mommy tracker' have taken on well tended 'faces' that they keep only for certain people, (since our livelihood is now dependent on other peoples' approval of us). The mistake a man can make that is so unattractive is to think that the 'face' is the real person.
Also, and more serious, it would be very 'inconsiderate' to a person maintaining a front to disregard the factors that drove them to do it. Any potential harm threatened by the government or parents must be so drastic as to overcome the woman's' entire moral background. As a child, you may be taught that honesty is the best policy, but that's only if you get caught. Then you should come clean to avoid more disastrous consequences. Otherwise, honesty is ridicules. Why bring harm on yourself or someone you claim to care for by being honest?
In the end, I think America has a problem accepting the fact that they are supposed to be in control of their government and lives, but this can't be done. So, when those who hold the physical reigns of power decide to play it fast and loose because a certain class of people can't defend themselves, society pays.
In light of all this, I realize that it may not be possible for me to be a part of this society. America has decided it has the right to judge very fundamental choices that people make in their lives. One such choice is the decision to remain open hearted after the break-up of ones' first love. It may seem like a choice that is not that important. After all, choosing to be kind hearted doesn't stop one from holding a job. But in America it becomes the bellwether, that one condition that doesn't really apply, but to go against that decision made for you results in every other aspect of your life being attacked.
In considering the situation of the Mbuti, the distortion of life caused by societal manipulation is clear in the way they regard the villagers, and in the way the villagers regard and fear the Mbuti. Because the Mbuti had 'possession' of the forest, an environment capable of giving all the needs of life and more, they are somewhat immune to the manipulation of outside society. However, they choose to come forth with much of what the outside world wants (mostly to protect their own world) so that it is easier for their government to do business than to conquer.
When war came, the Mbuti aided their villager friends, though they were not kin. It reminds me of what many European people did in response to Hitler. They helped many Jews escape. At their own risk.
In America, our government has begun to view people as an inconvenience and worse, as a resource in the way it used to view the earth itself. We are experiencing societal 'strip mining', where no regard is given to consequences of disrupting someone's home base, food supply, sexual and social connections and the like.
Our staff of public authorities create mounds of paper for themselves, then use that as the excuse why they don't have time to do what they should be.
Routinely, new computer systems are set up with the known intent that old or inaccurate records will not be regularly corrected. It is becoming the citizens burden to prove to the government that some thing is wrong, then there is a strong possibility that the person you have to prove it to does not have the authority to change the computer record. Or better, the proof you need is in the hands of some other agency, who will not give you records about yourself. (forget the freedom of information act, it will not be respected).
In industry, when a hot product is first developed, it's done fast and dirty. There is much waste. Now that our society has changed from one that had a reasonable percentage of people who made their living from the land, say 20 years ago, to one that concentrates people in cities, and makes us all dependent on the approval of others, we are experiencing changes of 'social technology'. And just like any new product, we are in the fast and dirty phase.
The results are horrible. 'Random' violence, only random because those causing it don't want to admit it. Homelessness, only because jailing some one is too expensive, and after all, we had to have some way to punish honest people who didn't break the law (much) because they believed the childhood false image of life's' ideal that every society tries to teach its' kids. With some one like that, what can you do? If you bust them for what their doing, you blow your own myth. If you let them go unharrassed, you risk losing control of society to the extent that you have pushed people for economic gain, to the detriment of their personal lives and happiness.
My experiences with this nation are horrendous. I am appalled that anyone would even try to defend those that treated me so badly when I was in need. Even though I could have sat back and taken it easy back then, which is what I should have done, I worked and tried to keep going. Now, I'm out of everything, and Americans are the stingiest, coldest people I meet.
For the life of me, I don't understand the American compulsion to hurt others with awful, stinking little one liners like:
1) You're born alone, you're gonna die alone. (Not true. You're born with at least your mom there.)
2) You've got no one to blame but yourself. (I didn't give myself eczema or make it worse in any way.)
3) You have to change yourself, because the system can't change itself. (False. The system changes very quickly when it wants to.)
There are others. List them if you can. I repeat, this is not intended to be a slam of America. It is, because America has done all the things described here, and more, in earning the reputation of a bastard. I have done nothing to deserve death, but that is my likely, untimely end. Nothing I have is valued. Nothing I am or can do is worth living. In every way I am told that because my life is not normal by the abnormal standards of American Society, I am therefor not fit to be loved or cared for even in the superficial way that Americans have adopted in response to their artificial environment. Being 'turned around' by the display of compassion from a woman is not reason to exclude such a man from the bedroom for half a lifetime. Having been ill myslef does not remove the brain of another, you can still think, and know for yourself what is, and what is not.